During my therapy session today, Nancy (my excellent gender therapist) asked me an important question:
“Where do you think the boundary is between being transgender and being a crossdresser?”
It’s a fair question, and honestly it put into concrete words some funky doubts I’d been having in my own mind over the past week. Doubts about what I’m doing, how successful I can be if I transition, if I could ever even make it all the way to the finish line. To wit:
Is the way I live my life right now the way a transgender woman lives her life? Or the way a crossdressing man lives his?
Five days a week I am Him all day, all evening, from the time I wake up until the time I get back home at 10 or 11PM. And on weekends I am Ali only when I have the time, which is usually for at least part of Saturday and Sunday … but not always. If I were to put a number to it, I probably spend no more than fifteen hours of waking time each week as Ali, twenty if my Sunday is completely free. The other 100 or so waking hours I’m Him. Him is natural; Him is easy; Him is who pays the bills, who parents the kids, who goes to the gym and teaches the classes.
I can’t just roll out of bed and be Ali. She is a production. Bringing out Ali takes time, patience, trial and error; I try on clothes, then change them, then put on make up, then change clothes again, then don my wig, then fuss with it, then scrutinize myself in the mirror, then sometimes start all over again. I have to think about Ali; I have to make a conscious effort.
She is also an event. Becoming Ali is something I must carve out time for and remove myself from the rest of my life to become. I cannot be her if I want to be with my kids, or if I want to go to the gym, or if I want to Facetime with my parents. In order to become Ali I need to make plans.
She is, in many ways, an indulgence. It’s far too often that I feel some guilt over the time and money I spend on her. If I’m being Ali, am I giving away time I could spend with my family? By being Ali, am I wasting time that could be spent parenting my children, connecting with friends, or tending to a myriad of life responsibilities? Am I wasting money that could be spent on family, or car repairs, or upgrading my aging laptop?
The answer I gave Nancy was this: “I think the line between crossdressing and transgender is when it stops being an event and just starts being normal.” And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m just not there yet. And cue the depressed sigh …